Six Simple Truths of Communication Every Pastor Should Follow


Youth Ministry in Motion Podcast Episode 68

Show Notes

I was listening to one of my favorite new podcasts, Everything Happens with Kate Bowler (Teacher at Duke Divinity School)  with one of my favorite actors, Alan Alda (M.A.S.H, Same Time Next Year, and The Four Seasons).

Alan is on the show to discuss the training he does with doctors on how to improve their communication skills with patients. Often doctors offer bad news in harsh ways. They lack empathy and can be very cold in their approach to what should be an intimate and caring moment between two human beings.

I see this kind of practice as no different as when youth workers, pastors, bosses, etc. are talking with, well, anyone. Us youth workers, especially when we’re younger, can be so impetuous and full of spunk (also read as: CRAP) that we think we know everything and are better speakers than listeners.

Think of all the times a pastor has to communicate where it matters how they communicate

  • when someone comes in for counseling for addiction
  • when someone receives bad news at the doctors
  • when there’s a sensitive meeting about church members
  • dealing with death and dying

Whether we’re “experts” because we have a degree or because we’ve simply been doing pastoral work a long time, we should always evaluate our communication skills. We, like doctors, have to deliver bad news,

You can ‘t go on the trip because…

You have to step down because…

We have to have a talk about…

Your soul is in trouble….

Not even three minutes into the podcast, Alan Alda offers a simple recipe for good communication based on the acting skill called improve. These are massive lessons all ministers in all positions, should learn when communicating with their the congregation, students, their spouses and pretty much everyone else.

The Essence of improve

focus on the other person

Listen intently, make eye contact, watch their body language.

the other person come first

Wait for cues or permission to interject, don’t interrupt. Our opinion may be different, but it’s not more important than the other persons opinion.

make your partner look good

How can I speak to empower the other person? How can avoid tearing anyone down and still making my point. Don’t degrade the other person to make ourselves look good.

become partners in communication

Approach every conversation as a partnership. You are both trying to achieve something, work together to help each other share what is really important to them

don’t deny your partner

Let them have their say. Let the other person “beat around the bush” a little until they are comfortable getting to the point. Don’t deny the other person your empathy and care no matter how difficult the subject.

You don’t have a target of communication, you have a partner in communication.

We do not speak at people, we speak with people. People are not targets for our information, they are partners in developing a conversation around what both of us want to talk about.

Scripture exhorts us to,

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4;6

Conversation – words, speech, divine utterances (aren’t they all?)

Full of grace – disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share (listen more talk less, less judgement more empathy)

Seasoned with salt – God preserving and seasoning a believer as they grow (Seek each others growth, and to preserve one another dignity)

Take a moment and ask yourself,

How much of my last conversation was filled with grace and seasoned with salt?

Was the person I was talking with a “target” of my information or. a partner in our communication?

We can, and should, always improve in our communication with others, especially to those whom we are making life long followers of Jesus.


You might also be interested in my take on Improvisational Youth Ministry 

You can also watch the podcast as I share live on the Youth Ministry in Motion Facebook Page, come join us.


So, Your Pastor Has Asked You To Preach, Now What?


One of best feelings in the world is when your boss hands you an assignment because he trusts you. In my case, this trust is expressed when I am asked to preach when my Pastor is out of town. I have always regarded preaching in place of my pastors as sacred ground but I’ve made my share of mistakes that you can avoid.

If you’re asked to take the pulpit here are three urges you’ll want to resist:

1. Lift Yourself Up

Many youth pastors are relegated to a broom closet, to budget, and a magnet for side-ways glances. It’s easy to get into the pulpit and take advantage of the spot light. It’s our moment to lift ourselves up and get all that credit to we’ve been missing out on.  Our actions could also be misinterpreted by the congregation as trying to  outshine the Pastor . Before you take the the pulpit, take a knee and thank God for the opportunity.

2. Use Sarcasm

I know, we’re used to talking to youth and sarcasm, which should also be tempered with them as well, can slip out unintentionally. When we have the chance to speak to the congregation we shouldn’t waste the time we have to share God’s word with snarky comments. It’s better to look smart than clever.

3.  Don’t Preach Angry

Some youth pastors would use this opportunity to “go after” the congregation or as some say “beat the sheep”. It was not my place to take the congregation to task. It’s not my congregation. It is my Shepherd’s Flock meaning my lead pastor and, even more important, Jesus. To not come across angry take  a deep breath and

  • If you have any bitterness, let it go.
  • Forgive those in the congregation who’ve hurt you (you’ll be staring at them and them at you).
  • See the big picture and not just your moment (build up a congregation that will eventually bless you and your youth ministry)

How I preach will determine if I am a hireling who does not know how take take care of the flock while the lead shepherd is gone or that I am a faithful shepherd myself who has a shepherd’s heart.

In other words, don’t use this time to stick it to anyone bu the devil.

A few things you SHOULD do

Tell the congregation you are thankful for the opportunity (and your pastor if he or she is present) .

Go shorter or the same time as your pastor (not longer, it looks like you don’t want this to end).

Let your students know and tell them you’d like them to be your amen corner.

Hangout after the service to let people encourage you.

Use enough technology (video clips, etc.) but not too much.

Your Turn

What was your first experience filling the pulpit like?

What mistakes do you think you made?

What advice would you give to a first timer?






If you’d like, you can listen to the message I preached for my pastor recently below.